The second ever Barton Springs University scored a big win for water literacy and fun. Check out the photos here and this great piece from KUT radio. The Statesman's Asher Price gave some nice coverage as well.
Thank you to everyone who participated-students, teachers, partners, sponsors, lifeguards, speakers, volunteers, musicians - everyone! The weather was perfect, the springs gushing strong and clear, the instructors and activity guides amazing, the sponsors and partners generous, and the students, teachers, and other attendees appreciative and attentive.
Last year we hosted about 430 high school students from area schools, most attending with their environmental science teachers. This year over 800 high school students attended. It was great mix of learning, swimming, and connecting with others who are interested in our region's water resources and Barton Springs in particular.
We extend a special thanks to our keynote speakers, Dr. Dean Hendrickson and Dr. Andrew Sansom. Dr. Hendrickson's address, "Get Eel Austin: The Whole Truth About the Weirdest Fish In Town" taught us a lot about this "stranger than fiction" fish that is commonly seen in Barton Springs. Perhaps most surprising is how little we know about American eels in Texas rivers and streams.
If you've ever seen or caught an eel in the wild in Texas, please contact Dean at the link and give him the details. The records are spotty and every point of observation is helpful. Check out Dr. Hendrickson's paper and power point presentation on what is known and not known about American eels in Texas here.
Find out more at the Barton Springs University website. Again thank you to everyone who graduated with Barton Springs University's Class of 2016!
Keep Mopac Local coalition leaders who filed suit in February to stop the proposed SH 45 SW/South Mopac toll loop from being built without a comprehensive federal environmental lawsuit won the first round. Late Tuesday U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel denied the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the case across the board. Read the Statesman story and the Austin Monitor coverage at the links. The court's order is here. folder Legal Documents
This is just the first round. Next Judge Yeakel will decide if Plaintiffs are entitled to discover agency documents relevant to TxDOT's decisions to chop up the toll loop into four separate pieces for purposes of environmental analysis. TxDOT and CTRMA have opposed all discovery of agency documents which they have not deemed part of the official "administrative record." A hearing on preliminary injunction is likely in mid-October. Please stay tuned.
The Statesman reported on TxDOT’s failed attempt to legalize the harm to endangered Golden-cheeked warblers that would result from construction of the proposed SH 45 SW toll extension of South Mopac. TxDOT requested to pay into the joint City of Austin/Travis County federal permit and Balcones Canyonlands Plan in order to mitigate for destroying and fragmenting over 100 acres of GCW habitat.
City officials rejected the TxDOT request, noting that building SH 45 SW would violate the City/County permit terms requiring protection of Flint Ridge Cave. Flint Ridge is one of the largest caves in Travis County, is home to rare cave-dwelling invertebrates, and funnels large amounts of water directly into the aquifer, where it flows through open channels in the rock to Barton Springs within a few days.
TxDOT has not even begun its SH 45 SW/Mopac toll loop plan, but already it is violating promises to protect the Edwards Aquifer and endangered species.
In the pdf Shudde Fath et al, v. TxDOT and CTRMA lawsuit (1.66 MB) over the proposed SH 45 SW/Mopac toll loop, TxDOT told the court in June that there would be no construction on the SH 45 SW Phase I piece of the loop before October and no construction on the misnamed “Mopac Intersections” piece before December.
But in a pdf Status Report (38 KB) filed with the court July 28, TxDOT disclosed that it had allowed AT&T crews to undertake trenching and tunneling along Mopac north of Slaughter Lane in order to move cable lines out of the way of the planned construction. TxDOT reported that as AT&T was boring a tunnel under the existing Mopac lanes “when the bore reamer passed through gravel, the bore hole collapsed, and AT&T excavated a pit to recover the bore reamer.”
When AT& T informed TxDOT of the problem, TxDOT tells the court that it “directed AT&T to stop the work and fill in any excavations it made.” It goes on to tell the court that it “regrets the miscommunications within TxDOT’s own offices which lead to the activities.”
On July 18th Save Our Springs Alliance and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a second federal lawsuit challenging a portion of TxDOT's push to expand and extend South Mopac over the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. This excellent KXAN news piece covered the story - explaining that TxDOT had sidestepped an Endangered Species Act requirement that it engage with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to assure, at minimum, that the proposed addition of six (6) lanes to the southern two miles of Mopac plus the construction of cross bridges at Slaughter and LaCrosse will not harm listed endangered species. The pdf new lawsuit (153 KB) will likely be consolidated with the pdf pending suit by SOS (1.66 MB) and eleven other parties that calls for TxDOT to complete a comprehensive environmental study on the proposed Mopac/45SW toll loop before building any piece of it. Absent these legal actions, TxDOT and its toll road partner, CTRMA, seek to begin construction as soon as October on the 3.6 mile SH 45 SW toll road. Learn more at KeepMopacLocal.org.